Nicky and her Nikon

By NickyR


This morning we were up at 6am go to RSPB Snettisham to see the whirling wader bird spectacle. The wading birds sit on a sandy spit that lies just off the beach at Snettisham in The Wash, which is the body of water between Norfolk and Lancashire. At certain times of the year when there is a very high tide, as the tide washes in it causes the birds to fly up into the sky to avoid the water and you have about 50,000 to 100,000 birds whirling above you as they move to settle again on dry land. There are very few times in the year when this occurs during daylight hours, and even fewer times when it occurs on a weekend, so the fact that it happened this weekend was a major event in the birding world. It is considered one of the great wildlife events to observe.

The car park only holds about 80 cars so we wanted to get there early to ensure we got a parking. The RSPB issue a timetable for the occurrences of this spectacle for the year, with a recommended time to be at the car park as it is about a 2km walk from the car park to the beach where you wait to observe the birds. There is one more event like this on a Monday in November, nothing in December, January or February so you can see this weekend was a prime date.

There were many photographers and twitchers on the beach waiting for the tide to come in, at least 300 people. Unfortunately the weather was awful! Yesterday was a perfect day for this event and I wish I had known about this event beforehand. It was misty, mizzly and then it started raining with the wind blowing the rain directly into our faces and onto the camera lens. The birds also generally take off into the wind so instead of flying over us as they should have, they were flying over the sea and then turning onto land at a different angle. It was tricky getting photos, and this image (and the extras) are all in colour yet it looks like monochrome as the light was so poor and everything was colourless. I have seen photos of this event with the blurry wings to show the movement and I realised it wasn’t just the photographer trying to be arty, rather that it is very tricky focusing in a dull sky! I did deliberately slow down the shutter to try some blurry shots too.

The first murmuration that took off surprised us with how loud it was, thousands of wings beating in the still air sounded like a train coming as they whoosh into the sky. The twitchers were getting excited to identify some unusual birds, one of which was some kind of special spoonbill. The birds whirling are mainly knots, terns, oyster catchers. The pink footed geese were also there flying in their formations.

We brought Xena with us and she got very cold and wet sitting there very patiently while we watched the birds, but she was very good as usual.

When we got home we had a late breakfast and a hot shower to warm up. By late morning the weather was lovely again with sunshine and blue skies. We had a fish lunch at a local restaurant before packing up and leaving to go home. A quick look at the beach, as can be seen in the last extra - what a beautiful day it turned out to be.

We had an easy journey home and were rewarded with the most beautiful sunset over the motorway as we neared home.

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